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Sunday, April 6, 2014


Ring               by Melissa Stein

Control was all
I wanted: a handle
on the day, the night
when it curved,
when it swayed,
when I could sense
the teeming stars
in light, in dark
the sun's bare wire.
Some switch
to turn it off:
each shadow
pinned to each tree
like a radius
of some infant's
milk it spilled.
And the leaves,
their gossip
of claw and beak
and wind and heat
and wing. Tether
lake to bank and
cloud to peak.
And weather it.
Weather it. All this
to say I've
taken off my ring.
Kiki Smith: "Just do your work. And if the world needs your work it will come and get you. And if it doesn't, do your work anyway. You can have fantasies about ...having control over the world, but I know I can barely control my kitchen sink. That is the grace I'm given. Because when one can control things, one is limited to one's own vision."

To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first, let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good; that is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them. Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, p. 32
Ars Poetica               Henrietta Goodman
Why do we think we have any control
at all? My breasts are soggy cartons.
The baby is greedy. He grabs
my skin in his fists, twists my hair.
He seems to know everything
already, the checkbook, balanced wrong,
the ignorance I'm not supposed
to confess—my friend says Giotto
and I hear Choteau, tiny town not far
from here. Clearly, I can imagine
no farther. The valley's a funnel,
skyline blurred by charcoal clouds,
the valley's a tornado and I'm
the eye—
doodlebug, doodlebug
your house is on fire—

the room spins and spins
until the floor drops away
and I'm dizzy, frescoed to the wall,
Madonna Defying Gravity.
You can't tell it yet,
but I'm slipping, scratching the days
in my skin with a dull blade,
too afraid to just cut clean
and deep. This is how prisoners do it,
one scratch for each day
on the wall that holds them in,
one for each day I've lost
in half-sleep, the baby curled
like a snail on my chest, my hand patting,
patting, stomach bulging
over the top of my pants—
what is restrained in one place
escapes in another—

"I cannot seem to feel alive unless I am alert," Charles Bowden writes in his recent book, "Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing", "and I cannot feel alert unless I push past the point where I have control."
To Mirah: In Utero: On Being Named                                Jennifer Perrine
I lost control of my car one summer, blacked out
on the way to work: when I woke, I’d lost
a random taxonomy: paper, sieve, sand dollar:
stuck in some synapse between mind and tongue:
others lost in their fumble of letters: I found
driftwood on the river and called it derby:
my doctor gave me a name: aphasia: like Adam
knowing he’d gotten it right when he found
gecko or ant lion under a dead leaf: no doubt
there’s a purgatory for lost language: the dark
burning-off before ascension: a lexicon
shaken loose from etymology: uprooted
rhizomes shucking their dirt: and you: swathed
in the hum of your name: all the world your alias.
Did We Betray the River                                                      Dionisio D. Martínez
Did we betray the river or did the river betray us? You've noticed, I'm
sure, how, under certain conditions, a ladder leaning on a wall is a draw-
bridge waiting for a sailboat that keeps delaying its journey, calling
the man who operates the bridge, layering elaborate excuses so neatly
that the man only hears one excuse: the boat's coming, just not yet, not
while the water's in control of the situation. The man waits—drawbridge
up, traffic on hold. Sometimes the world is all patience and silence
and there is nothing you can do to stir up trouble. The driver who keeps
a knife beneath the seat is tapping on the dashboard a song coming from
another car. This is an exception. Others are praying to their private
rivers, as if the one just ahead were not there: seeing is too easy: one
acquires increasingly complex needs, like the taste of earth just
turned by oxen who know the plow as well as a man knows his river. We
know this blue's an illusion: the things that shelter us are colorless and
hover just so, not quite halos and not quite hats, and they can all be named
even if the names are arbitrary, even if they're not quite words. Our boat
waits for the water to go from blue to brown to ocher, as in a Turner
vision—a realism so crude it borders on beauty, the way beauty
was meant to touch us: with its repulsive allure, its unwashed mirrors of
heavy morning fog. We have to look head-on, and learn to forget again.
Equilibrium Update                                                                    J. Allyn Rosser
      Look there, a man caught smack in the middle of his life
and almost aware of it; not quite yet resigned
            but past most of the old impatiences, having
developed a consciously casual walk, not quite
      the swagger of yore, nor the dignified limp
to come; rather like a man carrying a long heavy plank,
            glad of his hard-won, admittedly modest momentum;
calmly dreading several varieties of misstep
            such as tipping the future a little too far forward or
letting the past plunk down heedless behind; or merely
            looking down; or turning so quickly to look back as to
whack the one just now bending to pick her own burden;
      still staunchly bearing it onward in splinterless grip
            across the rooftop lifescape—bicep, trapezius and
thigh muscles in play, also those of the spine, the upper lip,
      he is at last in control, yes, in his element, in his heart
            of hearts wondering how long he will bear it, where to
and, as ever, what for.

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